Australian dairy farmers are panicking after a shock European Union vote to ban overseas countries from using the name haloumi to market the popular cheese product.
Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades revealed the decision in a tweet on March 30, describing it a "landmark day" for both haloumi and his country.
The nation's move was designed to act as a "shield of protection" for Cyprus, Mr Anastasiades said.
"A shield of protection is created and huge prospects for increasing the exports of our national product are created, for the benefit of all Cypriot producers, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," his tweet read.
Cyprus producers have been granted EU approval to market the product as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, meaning they can take legal action against manufacturers who sell traditional-recipe halloumi in the EU and United Kingdom.
The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has since indicated its willingness to fight for the haloumi name if the EU enforced a blanket ban in future deals, tweeting, "We have a fight on our hands".
"While haloumi is not listed as a GI (Geographical Indications) request under the pending Australia-EU free trade agreement (FTA), this latest development could see it added once the trade deal comes into effect," a statement from ADIC on Thursday read.
“The EU has already made a list of unreasonable demands to stop Australian cheese manufacturers using common cheese names,” ADIC Chair Terry Richardson said.
“Now they have opened up the possibility of adding to that list once the agreement is finalised, and it is simply going too far. We need to prevent this free trade agreement (FTA) from allowing the EU to take over our cheese names.”
Mr Richardson argued there were no grounds for haloumi to be declared a sacred name under the EU's GI system, claiming the name was "generic and associated not with the region in Cyprus, but with a certain taste, texture, and functionality".
“Haloumi is a cheese that can be, and is, produced anywhere in the world,” he said.
“Geography doesn’t enter into it. Claiming there is a special knowledge that only producers in Cyprus possess is absurd and will lead to an unfair and anti-competitive outcome.”
Restricting cheese and dairy product names in Australia could put local products with an aggregate sales value of more than $650 million at risk, according to ADIC.
Lost sales and increased marketing costs could set Australian dairy producers back between $70 and 90 million per year in the early stages of the FTA, the council claimed.
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